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History in our lives



The events of history shape a person’s understanding of themselves and their culture.

One major historical event was the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which we celebrate every 4th of July. The Declaration of Independence points to God as the Author of the Laws of Nature; one of which is the right for humans to be free. True freedom is the liberty to do that which is reasonable in the light of God. It is not the right to do anything a person feels like doing, because feelings are passing and are often confused and errant.

The Declaration of Independence shapes our understanding of true freedom by stating that God created all people with equal dignity and has given us the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – in that order.

The other historical event that shapes us was the signing of the United States Constitution in 1787. Although the Constitution has checks and balances within it to keep the Federal Government limited, and less likely to become corrupt from fallen human nature, many delegates did not sign it because they thought that the Constitution did not give enough rights to individual states, nor to individual persons. However, all the States finally ratified the Constitution in 1790, and the Bill of Rights was ratified by each State a year later.

The foundational influence of our Christian faith is evident in the writings of George Washington, who wrote:

“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of a Christian.”

The Declaration of Independence and our U. S. Constitution, (correctly understood), shapes us today and will hopefully shape our future. However, we need to know and identify with the foundations of Christianity, which is more than an historical event, it is an encounter with the person of God. And God had revealed himself perfectly through his Eternal Son, Jesus Christ. We who are disciples of Christ strive to grow that Christian character that George Washington wrote about in order to be free of external oppression and the oppression of sin.

Today’s first reading was from the Book of Exodus when God gave the Ten Commandments to his people.

These Commandments were a gift of God’s covenantal love, after God had freed them from the oppression of slavery in Egypt. This is a more profound historic event that shapes us, if we are attentive to God who calls us to a deepening relationship with him. For Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

The Egyptian government was ruled by false gods and did not allow Moses and the Jews to practice their Jewish religion, since God called them into the desert for three days to worship the God of Abraham. The most historically significant night is called the Passover, when God freed his people from slavery. God commanded Moses to tell the people that each family was to procure a male, unblemished lamb, sacrifice it, and put the blood of the lamb on the door post and lintel of each home. Then they were to roast the lamb and eat it with unleavened bread because it is the Passover.

On that night of the Passover, God, who is the author of life and death, sent his angel of death to strike down every first-born child of the family that did not listen to Moses, mainly the Egyptians. After this event the Pharaoh and Egyptians sent Moses and the Jews away. The Jews then passed through the Red Sea, a symbol of our baptism, and received from God through Moses the Ten Commandments. Yet, some of the Jews had trouble believing and trusting, and they rebelled against Moses. Thus, they wandered in the desert for forty years to be purified before they entered the Promised Land of Israel, a land flowing with milk and honey.

Eventually, God had them build a Temple in Jerusalem in his honor where the Jews were to celebrate the Passover every year in order to remember and to participate in their nation’s escape from slavery into freedom. It was in the Temple that the Passover lamb was sacrificed, and sins confessed were forgiven, thus they would follow God’s Ten Commandments of true love and freedom more attentively.

In the Gospel of today, the Passover was near and Jesus went to inspect his Father’s Temple. What he saw made him righteously angry, for the Jews had taken over the places of prayer to sell animals and exchange money. They had replaced worshipping God with the worship of the things of this world.

Jesus drove them out of the temple area and said, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples recalled the words of the Old Testament, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Another way of saying that is, “Zeal for your house will eat me up.”

When the Jews asked by whose authority he did this Jesus responded, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” They thought he was talking about the Temple building, but he was actually talking about the Temple of his body, for he was the Eternal Word made flesh, the full revelation of God in our human nature.

This makes sense because Jesus is the new Temple of God. On the night before he was crucified, he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the Apostles saying, “This is my body, take and eat. This is my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant poured out for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

By being in the state of grace and consuming Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we receive the divine life of God. This saving grace makes us zealous to push away the world and the marketplace in order to be free to pray, worship and listen to God.

To the degree that we fervently participate at Mass, we allow the divine person Jesus Christ and his saving events shape our Christian character. When we say, “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us,” we realize that we are participating in the fulfillment of the Passover from death to new life.

Peace in Christ,


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